Montreal’s multi-award-winning Mélisande [électrotrad] creates an explosion of trad music and beats

Photo credit: Albert Zablit For a high rez image, right click the photo and select "save target as" or your browser's equivalent.

Photo credit: Albert Zablit For a high rez image, right click the photo and select “save target as” or your browser’s equivalent.

Launch concerts for Les Millésimes:

Feb. 11 – The Ironwood, Calgary, AB
Feb. 24 – Festival du Voyageur, Winnipeg, MB
Feb. 25-26 – Maple Sugar Festival, Nanaimo, BC

March 4-5 – Festival du Bois, Coquitlam, BC

Following in the footsteps of globally-renowned acts like Afro Celt Sound System and Sweden’s Hedningarna, award-winning artist Mélisande [électrotrad] (say: may-lee-ZAWND) is leading a movement to merge traditional Quebecois music with electronica.

The band’s brand new sophomore album Les millésimes (the vintages) is an odyssey of pulsating beats, live drums and percussion, searing fiddle melodies, driving vocal choruses, blistering horn arrangements and creative synth lines – all providing hook-laden, centuries-old songs with a new life on the dance floor.

Mélisande and musical partner Alexandre “Moulin” de Grosbois-Garand purposely chose songs with a festive feel for their second album, hoping to make it groove even more than their award-winning debut. They chose the album title to suggest that great music, like fine wine, gets better with age. They selected their source material from the American Folk Life Centre at the U.S. Library of Congress as well as from the archives of the Canadian Museum of History and the University of Laval. Mélisande picked out her favorite versions of the songs while “Moulin” composed the core musical arrangements.

The first single, “Sur la ritintin,” opens with a brief cold vocal before erupting into pounding beats and bubbling bass, the traditional call-and-response vocal structure of the song rendered as a repetitive pop hook. Adding to Mélisande’s energetic singing, Francois Richard’s horn arrangement and Robin Boulianne’s fiddle build in intensity as if in a classic La Bottine Souriante song on steroids.

Other highlights include “Le vin et l’eau,” a fast-paced piece with chorus-like vocalizations and guest vocals by Alexandre Désilets, who sings the virtues of wine while Mélisande sings the virtues of water; “Si l’amour prenait racine,” a dreamy, trip hop-influenced number with an ethereal melody sung by Mélisande, haunting wooden flute flourishes by “Moulin” and hip hop rhymes by David Goudreault; and “Quand les hommes sont aux vignes,” a synth-driven extravaganza that electronically reworks traditional percussion.

“Moulin” and François Richard, producer of the album, both built synth parts for the songs. Mélisande played jaw-harp in addition to singing lead. Co-producer Alexis Martin played drums and percussion and programmed the beats, while Boulianne (Yves Lambert, MAZ) played violin, viola and banjo. The horn section consisted of David Carbonneau on trumpet, Mario Allard on sax, and Matthieu Van Vliet on trombone. And additional guest vocals on “Angélique” were provided by Nicolas Boulerice of Le Vent du Nord, who also played hurdy-gurdy.

Together, the core duo behind the project, Mélisande and “Moulin” represent a perfect union of tradition and modern. Mélisande began her career with the prog rock group Mémoire Vive, which was extremely active around Montreal in the 90s. In 2001, she moved to Boston, where she recorded an album with The Sweepers before returning to Montreal to perform with the group Colette and launch a solo career. She subsequently won two awards at 2010’s Vue Sur la Relève, toured Canada, the US and Australia and appeared at the Festival de Mexico before turning her attention to trad music.

“Moulin” won four Canadian Folk Music Awards and was nominated for both a Juno and a Félix for his work with Genticorum, one of Quebec’s leading new generation trad bands. He comes from a traditional music family – his father, Gilles Garand, founded the Festival La Grande Rencontre in Montreal – and built his reputation as a member of Perdu l’Nord, with whom he first experimented with electrotrad.

Partners in both music and life, Mélisande and “Moulin” released their debut electrotrad album, Les métamorphoses, in 2014 and immediately took Quebec by storm. They earned an Independent Music Award for World Beat Album of the Year and a Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Singer of the Year and were nominated for a Félix for Album of the Year – Traditional. Perhaps most gratifying, they’ve seen other Quebec artists follow their lead.

With the release of Les millésimes, Mélisande [électrotrad] has created a scorching follow up to that debut and a hard-driving celebration of Quebec culture for the new millennium.

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